Monday, 9 January 2012

Vietnam, Part 2!

So we made it to Halong bay, and conveniently it was also Jayes birthday. We had organised with the hotel to book a tour around halong bay, not knowing how it all works. If you were wiser about it then you'd just go down to the wharf in the morning and pick someone waiting around as they have signs up detailing routes and costs. I think we overpaid slightly, but still, what we got was an entire boat to ourselves, and the three crew.

Racing some other boats out. It was actually quite slow, and very calm.

Our own private boat. We weren't allowed up here when they were docking.

Panorama of the bay.
The route was supposed to go via four stops, or four things that required the ticket. There were two caves at the first stop, Thien Cung Grotto and Dau Go Cave.

The bay. Lots of construction here to cope with more tourists I guess.

Happy birthday Jaye! You're in Vietnam!

Inside the cave.

People throwing money into bits of the cave.

Best cave photo, and my new background!

More cave. Notice the two people sitting in the middle with computers and printers... Yes, even inside you can get your photo taken for a price.

A geyser in the cave.

HDR Cave

After the colourful cave we were directed past a turn with the name of the second item on the ticket, so I'm not sure if we missed out there. I wanted to see more caves. Caves are awesome. It was back on the boat to our next mystery destination.

Through this gap...

More gap.

Floating fishing village.
The boat stopped next to one of the floating houses. We didn't really know what was going on. The plan was that we were stopped here to buy some fresh seafood which they will cook on the boat for us. No one was that hungry and we weren't really prepared for it. They offered a big fish for $30, expensive I think, but cheaper than I'd seen in my travels for a fish like that. There were various other seafood items available too.

More seafood! We ended up with $10 worth of the Sea Mantis which are in the lower right there. Ended up being about 20 of the things.

Trying again to sell the fish. They knocked the price down to $15, but no one was really that hungry. Our guide was bargaining for us, but I'm sure they get a cut. When we were back on the boat the guide exchanged money with the fishermen, not sure if they were getting or giving money.

Then it was back on the boat for more floating around cliffs. They cooked the Sea Mantis for us which we then ate while enjoying the view and wondering what was going to happen next. Because we didn't know how to eat these things the guide helped us by cutting them open to get at their tasty insides. Probably got ripped off, but for $10 it was an odd experience!

Leaving the fishing village.
More cliffs

Cock fighting island? I think that's what it's called.
After we finishing eating we noticed we were heading back to Halong City. We thought there might have been a bit more to do as a few things were stamped on the ticket yet.

They came on board and tried to sell fruit.

Boats in the bay. Ours looked like that.
Then once we were ashore we wandered back along the coast to find something more substantial to eat. After lunch two, Jaye and I headed up towards the big bridge to look around, and Voula headed back to Hanoi as there were some more things there she wanted to do there.

The bridge!

Random filming on the beach.

Beer on the beach.

The view from the beach.
The next day it was time to head back to Hanoi. We caught a 12:30 bus back which was eventful. In one of the towns the driver got caught speeding, so we had to turn around and go back to where the police were sitting. After about twenty minutes we set off again, but then suddenly we turned around again... We ended up back at the police again because the driver had left his licence there...

Along the way we made a scheduled stop at some tourist trap souvenir shop.

Apparently some people are proud to show off what they bought here...

Everyone was finished looking and waiting to go again.
When we got back on the bus I there was water spay through it. They had washed the bus while we were inside and my bag was on the floor soaking up some water. Luckily just the laptop case was wet, everything seemed OK.

Once we got back to Hanoi we stayed in an awesome hotel and got upgraded to the super special rooms. The nicest place I've stayed in while travelling. You can gauge this by how wet the bathroom floor gets after showering. In the morning we had breakfast made in front of us by a bored looking cook, then it was time to pack, and head to the airport for our respective flights.

Here's a few things I saw from the taxi window:


Overloaded bike, pipe.

There are lots of these things.

Interesting cargo.

And the number one best photo from Vietnam that I took.
Jaye and Voula were off at 1pm. I had organised my flight for an hour after that when I booked, but with this being Lao airlines they had moved the flight to 5:30. So I hung out for a lonnnnnggggg boring time waiting to get a ticket so I could at least access the area to wander around duty free. At least it was one of the brand new A320s from Lao Airlines and not the smaller propeller types.

And that was it for Vietnam. Hanoi is crazy busy and noisy, Danang is probably great in summer and being developed along China Beach, Halong bay is awesome but requires more knowledge of the routes.

When I got back into Laos I used my freshly acquired US$'s to pay for the visa, but apparently the notes were not "new" enough... I used one of the $100 notes I had got beforehand and that was ok for them, then they handed my change and I went downstairs to try and change that into Lao Kip, but of course, the change was not "new" enough for them either... Thanks for giving me money that even you wouldn't accept. Great. I had a whole bunch of US$'s that were now useless. I think I can use them while in Vientiane, so I might try and get rid of them that way.

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